Monday, August 26, 2013

Better Late Than Never...

Now that we've been home from Prague for about three weeks now, I've had quite a bit of time to reflect ;) While I thought the trip was great while we were there, I'm finding that I'm missing everything about it (except ice - turns out I love ice), and find myself wanting to go back. Whenever I have to explain to people how the trip was, the first thing out of my mouth is that it's like something out of a story. The culture, the people, the marble roads and little cafes, everything just seemed somewhat whimsical. They say that you can't truly appreciate something until its gone. Being home and back to corporate, cookie cutter America - I truly appreciate what Prague has to offer! Until next time!!

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Shot in Prague!

It's True, I was shot in Prague by what appeared to be a pellet of some sort. Didn't cause serious injury, but hurt like... well you know. And so began my adventure! I think the best part of the trip can be summed up in one picture.

Sitting at the edge of a vineyard, listening to a guitar/violin/and bangos play the mama's and the papa's and drinking wine.. Oh and then I guess the view was ok... :)

Prague is not like any U.S. city I have been too. It makes the U.S. feel like a childrens book comparatively. The ornate structures along every street and the history behind every statue. I also never realized how fast I did everything until I was trying to rush around and found myself slowed by everyone around me. Meals take easily twice as long as the U.S. Sauntering is completely acceptable and not looked at negatively. With that said, I've never seen a better publis transit system. Timely, clean, and efficient. I can't say the people on the transit were always clean, but the vehicles themselves seemed very tidy.

Overall, I would liken my experience in Prague to a first date. There was a lot of anticipation, a whirlwind of getting to know eachother, with many surprises, a few awkward exchanges, and now that we are apart, I can't stop thinking about it.

-S.I.P  <-- my new handle

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Our EMBA trip to Prague was an amazing time! While we arrived in Central Europe in the middle of an intense heatwave, I think that everyone in attendance shared a once in a life time experience.  I think the best thing to do is speak to the highlights of our time in the Czech Republic.

The tours of the city on Saturday and Sunday while extremely hot provided us the ability to get around the city, whether it be walking, by tram, or on the city metro.  I found that very useful.  It was also fun to walk to Charles Bridge, through Old Town(1100AD) to the new town(the 1300's!). This sets the stage for exploring a thousand years of art and architecture which flow seamlessly through the city. 

The atmosphere of the city squares was almost carnival like. Venders roasting ham on a spit, or gyros, grilled cheese.  Street performers played music or did performances in the squares. It was a lot to take in.  But the city had much more to offer beyond being a tourist destination.  While the great squares were preserved in their traditional appearance, a modern city had grown up just around the corners.

Our Meetings with Siemens, GE Money Bank, Passion advertising, and  Avast! anti virus software showed that the city was rebounding from the economically stagnant Communist era into a Westernized business minded city and country. It was very interesting to see each of our speakers talk with pride and enthusiasm about what great things were going on in the Czech republic.

Our trips outside of Prague to Brisk spark plug manufacturing company and the Ruckl Crystal factory showed us that not every industry had fully transformed.  The Crystal factory took pride in their traditional process, but it was obviously very hard on their employees.  And the Brisk factory had both modern elements of automated manufacturing and more traditionally conceived assembly line production. The line workers definitely had tough jobs.

We experienced some really great food along the way as well! Our first night was a traditional meal served with music and dance in a broiling hot hall.  The food was great, and I was even lulled into doing a traditional dance. We had wild boar at the last property of the Arch Duke of Ferdinand before his assassination set off the first world war!   Schnitzel in Vienna.  A peaceful lunch on the Vltava river in a boat turned restaurant. Our last night we had a going away dinner at the Kozel Brewery. That tour may have been my highlight of the trip! The Largering room was a cool 55 degrees on a 100 degree day!

The Trip was a great learning experience.  We were able to see the dynamics involved in bringing the Czech Republic out of its communist era slump into an exciting western European capital of culture, art and economic possibilities! I think that Prague has a a lot going for it, and the Czech republic will likely have a bright future!

Monday, August 5, 2013

Student Tao Han, "Wonderful Prague Trip"

It is not my first time to visit Prague. But every time when I visit Prague, I will find something different. This time I learn more about the history and culture of this beautiful city (thanks Vaclav Storek). Also due to our several business visits, I have a chance to know about how people do business or manufacturing in Prague or Czech Republic. There is a Chinese proverb: “Read thousands of books, travel thousands of miles.” (读万卷书,行万里路。) The world is a book and those who do not travel read only one page. Hope we will have more opportunities to travel different places and experience different cultures. It is my great honor to spend 7 days in such an amazing city together with all our excellent cohort members.

Friday, August 2, 2013

Prague has been amazing – from the spectacular churches and statues, experiencing an elevator malfunction, to refreshing pivo.   Seriously, the site visits allow our cohort to compare and contrast our business experiences in the United States to those of the Czech Republic. 

We visited three different types of manufacturing plants in Prague. I work for a family owned manufacturing company and Brisk Tabor is a family owned business as well. Brisk makes spark plugs and sensors.  There were some obvious differences in safety procedures, for example protective eye wear was absent at Brisk. One thing that was similar is pride that the owner’s son, Mr. Capka has for his family’s business. Our next visit was a glass manufacturing facility and again the pride in their product was apparent when talking to management about the crystal.  Bohemia Crystal produces and exports crystal to highly regarded American crystal retailers.  Safety procedures were again different from those in the United States. The use of slippers at Bohemia Crystal is incorporated into employee attire so that they can easily remove footwear when hot crystal lands on their feet. Our last manufacturing plant, Kozel Brewery, was the most modern.  The tour included tasting the product.  Thankfully Kozel exports to the United States!

I look forward to returning  to Prague!

Tomorrow we head back.  I'll leave Prague with fond memories and thoughts of the people, the history and the culture.  It was terrific spending time with my fellow cohorts sharing the ups, the downs and the in betweens.

Ok...eyes, teeth, chin...


That's a wrap!

As this adventure draws to a close, I take a moment to a) breathe and b) reflect on this weeks experiences...

Every meal was better than the last, only to be topped by the daily consumption of gelato. Meals ranged from heavy dishes of wild boar with dumplings to delicious sandwiches from the corner panineria.
Presentations and company visits provided great insight to the Czech culture and the challenges / accomplishments of promoting business on an international level. Cultural excursions allowed us to soak in the rich history that the Czech people take so much pride in; as well as relax with good wine and friends while floating down the Vltava River.

But being the "archi-snob" that I am, I need to comment on the rich architecture that we had the privilege to behold. Prague escaped significant damage during WWII and the city's medieval roots could be seen all throughout the city. St. George's Basilica, with its red and cream facade, displayed arched openings and piers reminiscent of the Romanesque period; one of the oldest architectural periods found in Prague. Nearby, St. Vitus Cathedral was the most awe-some example of gothic architecture with its pointed arched openings, expanses of natural light, and emphasis on verticality - not to mention is extensive ornamentation!!!!

Yet, while we pursued the cobblestone streets of the Old Town, we still witnessed modern buildings displaying characteristics of Functionalism as well as some very innovative designs. Many office buildings and social housing still reflect the plain facades and boxy designs built during Communism. From previous research, Functionalism was almost the exclusive style of architecture from the 1940s to the 1970s. It included styles such as Stalinist architecture and was formulated by a "club" of Architects during that time. The Czech society seems to be getting on board with the whole green movements as wells. It was great to see solar panels on several buildings as well as green roofs. During our ride through the countryside there were even solar panel "farms" - rows upon rows of large solar panels! New office buildings (and the brewery!!) also incorporate "living facades" on their buildings which involve extending the footprint of the building to include a "greenhouse" with climbing plants.

Well, I need to wrap up this blog... As many of my cohorts know, it was my goal to see Frank Gehry's "Dancing House" and I mean to see it through. The Deconstructivist style building was completed in 1996 and resembles a pair of dancers (Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers are often referenced to). The construction and design stirred quite the controversy as it is surrounded by typical Prague architecture. Also, the site was once the location of a house that was destroyed in a U.S. bombing of Prague in the mid-40s.

Until the next adventure... good night!

I never know what to write in these things....

I have wanted to visit Europe for a long time.  I was intrigued about the historical landmarks and rich culture.  Now that I have been to Prague I can say that I was not disappointed.  The sites are beautiful, it felt like we were walking around in a fairy tale.  The ornate buildings and massive cathedrals were a site to see.  I can't imagine designing and building them with out the aid of modern tools.  The planning and labor that went into them was obviously quite extensive.  The fact that they are still standing and in good condition today is a testament to the carpenter's skill.  The scenes carved into the statues helps us imagine what life could have been like "way back when."  It shows us what was important to the people of that time as well as their daily lives.
Coming from the states I thought that anything from the 1800's is old.  Once you visit a country where the history can be traced back hundreds or thousands of years it makes our "old" buildings seem new and young.  I am proud of our country's history, but can't help but be in awe of the history throughout the Prague and the Czech Republic.

Seven days...

Hello, goodbye, in the blink of an eye
I came, I saw, I showered.
Prague is a city of mystique and wonder…
Of bustle, growth, and power.
Give it your ear and give it some time,
It takes just moments to adjust.
Before you know it the city’s sweet whisper
Cries “Don’t leave me, stay, you must.”
Hours away yet feeling like home
Minus the ice and AC…
I pack my bags and bid fond farewell

To the fair Praha city.


A few differences between Czech Republic and U.S. in no particular order

In no particular order, a few observations:
  • Dogs are welcome throughout the city.  Water bowls are provided outside many shops for canine refreshment.
  • The main floor of buildings, 1st floor in the U.S., is 0.
  • In some office buildings, toilet paper is not provided in individual stalls, but rather is located in a central dispenser mounted on the wall, and you grab some as you go in.  What a time-saver in terms of maintenance, is my thought: one large roll to restock, rather than many.
  • Dogs are welcome on the trams and on the Metro.
  • There is apparently no equivalent to OSHA:  in the manufacturing sites we visited, workers were without goggles, gloves, and other protective equipment.  Many workers wore open-toed shoes or nonprotective shoes such as Crocs on the factory floor.
  • The U.S. is more liability-conscious:  it's difficult for me to imagine that any group of outsiders would be welcome to walk through a factory without signing a waiver, or being issued a hard hat, or being repeatedly reminded not to touch anything, etc. 
  • Hotel and some restaurant staff will smile in greeting; otherwise, I have generally found it to be true what Yasha and Kristina had said, that perhaps as a holdover from Communism, Czechs do not smile at strangers.  Certainly, there is a higher initial level of reserve.  Many years ago I had found the same to be true when I worked for a German/Swiss technical and arts publisher (Birkhauser).
  • Did I mention about the dogs?     ~ Elisa
Prague is an extraordinary combination of old and new, both architecturally and in terms of how things are done (and in many other ways I'm sure I have no grasp of.) 

The most beautiful red-tile-roofed buildings dating back hundreds of years are right next to modern office buildings; buildings with sublime steeples and carvings are right smack next to the ugliest souvenir shops and American exports such as [really] Hooters.

Similarly -- state-of-the-art sensors and sparkplugs are made at a run-down factory by workers handling chalk/ceramic dust without masks, but then quality-checked in a sealed monitoring system which can identify the date and time, worker, serial number, etc. of the component.  Should anything turn out to be amiss with the component, very specific corrective steps can be taken and recall information could be issued. 

We've had two outstanding guides: Vaclav Storek in Prague, who led us on our three-hour journey through the city, and Rikki in Vienna, whose historical knowledge was impressive but whose tour required more time than allowed for.  Vaclav in particular was able to pace things in a way that allowed us to absorb the information, and in subsequent days in the city, I found myself recognizing landmarks, recalling some of his remarks and explanations, and remembering his directions for how to take the Metro.

Kristina from ISP has been upbeat, patient, positive, and informative. Among the many other things I've appreciated, she has kept us all well-hydrated in this stunning heat by constantly distributing water bottles from a cooler compartment at the front of the bus. 

More momentarily. ~ Elisa

Visit to Prague

   I have had the luxury to live in Europe for four years.  During that time I was able to travel around to different places and see many things.  I was not fortunate to travel to Prague during that time.  I had always been weary about it, and I still felt that way when Don announced we would be going here for the cohort's international business trip.  We arrived after a long flight and the last thing I wanted to do was take a walking tour of the city, especially in 90+ degree temperatures.  With much internal complaining, we met our guide and headed to explore the streets of Prague.  
   The area around the hotel is reminiscent of many other European cities I have visited.  Old buildings mixed with new ones, small shops and cafes, and the occasional large shopping complex.  However that all changed once the group got off of the tram in the center of the city.  The streets and alleyways are like a step back in time.  Our walked us along various souvenir, crystal and garnet shops to the famous Charles Bridge.  Although hot, the bridge had a sense for grandeur, due to its length and the numerous statues of saints looking down from either side.  From there, we walked to the Old Town Square and marveled at astronomical clock.  Further on we walked to Wenceslas Square, while our guide filled our ears with stories of Mozart, emperors, and how life was during Communist occupation. 
  The second day of the trip proved to me even more amazing.  We went on a guided walking tour of Prague Castle.  I found it amazing that the castle is still used by the current president.  The most amazing feature of the castle was St. Vitus cathedral.  The size and the detail of this church rivals any I have seen in my travels.The views from the castle are simply amazing, as you can see the entire city sprawled out below you.   Immediately after the castle tour, I went on the Segway movie tour.  Having never been on a Segway in my life, I was a little out of my comfort zone.  Those who were with could see this because when I first got on it; it almost bucked me off!  I figured ok...if this is how it is going to be, then at least I will be good for some comic relief.  After a few minutes I was able to get the hang of it and I felt more comfortable.  With the Segway, we were able to climb hills and see some parts of Prague that would have taken hours by foot.  It was also neat to learn what movies have been filmed in Prague, whether the setting was Prague itself, or another European city.
   The final view of the city I got was by boat.  We took an evening two hour cruise with jazz music, and of course, beer!  It was a relaxing time in the open air watching the various landmarks of Prague pass us by.  In contrast to the hot days, the evening cruise was very comfortable.  Everyone in our group seemed to enjoy the atmosphere, especially since our schedule was so hectic.
   Prague is a beautiful city.  I have enjoyed my time here immensely.  Above all, I have enjoyed spending time with the members of the 2014 cohort and the distinguished guests of the 2013 cohort.  Getting away from class and spending time with one another has been the best part of the trip!  I have had spending time with them with good food, good beer, and good conversation!


my time in prague

What can I say about Prague that hasn't been said already. Probably nothing. When we arrived it was hot, hottest they have seen in a while, and it only got hotter. So hot it felt like I was melting away. To top it off the a/c in the hotel seemed to barely work and the a/c at the company visits weren't much better. On top of that, elevators seemed to not want to work, the hotel only gave me a napkin to sleep with, and the drinks seemed to have been chilled in a wine fridge at red wine temperatures. Yet with all of that, I wouldn't change a thing. These experiences are what make trips like this even better, because we now all have stories that we can tell and laugh about. What made this trip priceless were the friendships that I was able to build on. The best times during the trip were spent at the bar, being able to really get to know each other. From sharing stories like annulments off the highway, not knowing where to keep your boots, shipwreck snorkeling or yodeling, I would not change this trip for anything. And if I could sum this whole experience up in one word I think it would have to be MANFASA.